With AR and AK rifles in short supply, what choices are there for concerned civilians or law enforcement officers seeking a personal rifle for defense or patrol? Most individuals and departments usually begin with a 5.56mm (.223) carbine and many adopt AR-type carbines from one of the major manufacturers, but there are more than a few departments and officers who prefer not to equip themselves with AR-type carbines due to the negative image associated with military-style rifles and the aforementioned unavailability.
Almost all manufacturers are back-ordered, most are looking at one year or more before they fill all orders already in-house now. Once one begins to look beyond an AR-type rifle as a possibility, the choices quickly narrow to only a few long guns. One often overlooked patrol or defensive carbine candidate is the “Sport Utility” SU-16CA from Kel-Tec.
Kel-Tec products have a reputation for significant value and quality of manufacture, and the SU-16 series of rifles are no different. All are gas-operated with a system similar to that of the Stoner 63 or Beretta AR-70 with an operating rod/piston attached to a bolt carrier fitted with a Stoner-type multi lugged bolt. The drive spring, like that of the Stoner 63, rides inside the operating rod tube. The rod rides inside a gas tube over the barrel. This system is reliable and eliminates the receiver fouling associated with AR-15 type direct impingement gas systems.
The receiver, stock and forend are constructed of fiberglass reinforced Zytel polymer, which can be molded in different colors. All current SU-16 rifles are black, but variations such as SU-16s in coyote tan, OD green or other finishes would be great compliments to the line. The action of our test rifle was particularly smooth right from the box, almost certainly attributable to the receiver’s Zytel construction.